Weekend Box Office – THE AVENGERS Claims Third Week On Top; $25.3 Million Debut Sinks BATTLESHIP

     May 20, 2012

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For the third week in a row, The Avengers dominated the box office. Marvel’s superheroes added another $55 million to their domestic total – putting the film over $450 million in a record-breaking seventeen days. Meanwhile, the three new releases that lined up to challenge The Avengers all struggled in the blockbuster’s wake.

Title Weekend Total
1 The Avengers $55,050,000 $457
2 Battleship $25,350,000 $25.3
3 The Dictator $17,415,000 $24.4
4 Dark Shadows $12,770,000 $50.9
5 What to Expect When You’re Expecting $10,500,000 $10.5
6 Best Exotic Marigold Hotel $3,250,000 $8.2
7 The Hunger Games $3,000,000 $391.6
8 Think Like A Man $2,700,000 $85.8
9 The Lucky One $1,765,000 $56.9
10 Pirates! Band of Misfits $1,450,000 $25.3

battleship-movie-poster-large-02We’ll get to all the latest Avengers accolades in a moment. I’ve waited a long time to talk about Universal’s Battleship and, even though the film is in second place, this weekend’s estimate indicates I might not get another chance to kick it around.

From its debut in 3,690 locations, Battleship earned an estimated $25.3 million. That’s at least $10 million below initial projections for the big-budget boardgame, and less than half of what The Avengers earned in first place. So, how did the film that came “From the Company that Brought You Transformers” stumble so badly? Where do I start?

A few years back, Hasbro announced it would capitalize on the success of Transformers by bringing its other classic toy properties to the screen. G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra was first, in August 2009. Though no blockbuster, the film’s $22.1 million opening day and $54.7 million first weekend was solid enough to push other Hasbro properties into production. Enter Battleship. At the time, many noted that the two-player game, without action figures or an animated series to its credit, seemed like a thin premise for a movie. Then again, Disney’s theme park attraction-turned-feature film Pirates of the Caribbean was also a hard sell, once upon a time.

battleship-movie-image-taylor-kitsch-rihannaWorking in Battleship’s favor was the fact that Peter Berg, beloved creator of Friday Night Lights, was signed to direct. Working against it?  The stunt casting of Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker, the inscrutable alien plot, terrible word of mouth, ghastly early reviews and, after John Carter crashed and burned, lead actor Taylor Kitsch.

Universal saw the writing on the wall and launched Battleship in the more-forgiving international waters back in April. So far the film has earned a decent $230 million overseas, which will go a long way towards balancing out its reported $210 million budget. Battleship should have been able to break $100 million here in the US; but, all things considered, I think it will be lucky to match John Carter’s $71 million final gross. It’s that bad.

It’s tempting to imagine what might have happened to Battleship if The Avengers frenzy had died down faster but, luckily for Disney, that didn’t happen. Earlier this week the Marvel superheroes passed Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End to become Disney’s highest grossing title internationally and worldwide. This weekend The Avengers also became the studio’s highest grossing domestic title, flying past the $423.3 million of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The Avengers is now the sixth-highest grossing film in US history. With just $3 million separating it from Star Wars, the Marvel title should move up to fifth by Monday. Just to be clear, these figures do not reflect inflation, 3D or IMAX price differentials or numbers of tickets sold.

what-to-expect-when-youre-expecting-posterIf this weekend’s estimate made Battleship look bad, what to make of What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Like Hasbro’s boardgame, bringing America’s best-known pregnancy manual to the big screen was not an easy sell. It helped that the book was reimagined as a rom-com and stuffed with stars, á la Valentine’s Day. Not so helpful? The fact that recent rom-coms concerning pregnancy (The Switch, The Back-Up Plan) have been notable box office failures. That’s about the size of What to Expect. Instead of the $25 million that was expected, the Lionsgate release earned just $10.5 million from its 3,012 locations. That’s slightly higher than the first weekend of The Switch, if that helps put things in perspective.

Things were not so tragic for The Dictator. The latest comedy from Sacha Baron Cohen was not in league with Borat, or even Bruno, but at least it managed to match expectations with its estimated $17.4 million from 3,008 runs. Like Battleship, The Dictator is expected to make up ground internationally. Unlike Battleship, the $65 million budget of The Dictator will make that ground a lot more manageable.

By all accounts, The Avengers will be handing first place over to Men in Black 3 next weekend. It’s been a long time since Will Smith was the king of summer but even an aging king is going to command more than $55 million on Memorial Day weekend, right? Not that it isn’t fun to write about the same movie week after week, but come on! May 2012 has got to have more to offer than one, crazy-enormous, super-powered blockbuster.

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